Ateneo upends NU to claim PinoyLiga Cup title

Kai Ballungay took over for Ateneo with a solid all-around game. FilOil EcoOil Sports (file photo)
By Mon Anthony L. Valmoria

MANILA—After falling short in the FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup, the Ateneo De Manila (ADMU) Blue Eagles joined the party of top UAAP teams winning in the preseason as they overcome the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 65-63, and win the PinoyLiga Cup Season 2 title at the Villar Coliseum in Las PiƱas City. 

The Blue Eagles, who went undefeated and swept the whole tournament (11-0), joined La Salle (PBA D-League) and UP (Filoil Cup) to win titles in the preseason. All three teams are expected to challenge the top two spots in the anticipated UAAP Season 86 Basketball Tournament in September.

Ateneo leaned on POG and eventual Finals MVP Kai Ballungay who had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, two steals, and one block against a very pesky NU Bulldogs squad missing key players.

The Bulldogs played the clincher without key pieces Kean Baclaan, Steve Nash Enriquez, and main foreign student-athlete Omar John yet still put up a good fight against the defending UAAP Champions.

Having all the momentum coming into the title game after a beat down versus EAC in the Final Four, Ateneo found themselves in a tight game against NU. Each team traded baskets in the first half with the Blue Eagles only leading by 4 at halftime, 38-34.

The same story continued in the third quarter as NU just would not go away.  An early 4-0 run at the start of the third quarter allowed the Bulldogs to tie the game up. 

However, with the score knotted up at 51-all, Jared Brown hit a booming right-wing three-pointer to put Ateneo up for good. 

The Blue Eagles kept the Bulldogs at bay and pulled all the right stops when needed until the end of the game. NU had one last crack at it to tie the game but Jolo Manansala missed a running three-pointer at the buzzer to let Ateneo escape with the victory.

Ateneo supplanted Ballungay's Player of the Game efforts by having 4 other players score six or more points led by Geo Chiu and Mason Amos' eight points.

Backup FSA Mohamed Diassana filled the void left by Omar John with 12 points on 6/10 shooting from the field while Don Lim, who was NU's top scorer vs UP in the semis, struggled with only five points on 2/10 field goals.

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